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While there are lots of ways you can make some extra money with a side gig, one easy way to make a supplemental income is to become a secret shopper. If you already enjoy shopping, this can be a fun way to make some cash in your spare time. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation around about secret shopping, so here we’ll delve into how to become a secret shopper and find a legit side hustle.
Related reading: 5 Realistic Ways to Get Paid to Shop
Large companies are often so big that they cannot possibly check what their employees are doing and whether they are meeting the needs of their customers. Unfortunately, a few incidents of poor customer service, untidy stores, or shoddy displays can quickly compromise the reputation of any business by destroying the customer experience.
To address this, stores need people to check their locations in a low-key way, so they can obtain genuine insight into how the typical customer is treated when they walk through the doors. This is where secret shoppers can help.
A secret shopper (also known as a ” mystery shopper”) can go into a business and look at specific things that may be an area of concern, whether it’s if promotional displays are correctly set up, the level of customer service, or even if the staff members are asking appropriate questions. As a secret shopper, you’ll have assignments that detail tasks and you just need to go to the location and complete them.
Most assignments do require that you read through the details before you accept the job. You may need to choose a date or time frame, but the assignment will detail how much you’ll be reimbursed for purchases and what you’ll earn.
You simply need to carry out your assignment ensuring that you complete all the tasks specified. You may need to keep a note file on your phone that you can refer to inside the store.
After you complete your assignment, you’ll need to complete a report and answer various questions. When you submit your report, you’ll receive payment according to the company guidelines.
There are typically three ways that you can get paid as a secret shopper.
- Reimbursement: This typically doesn’t pay any fee for your work, but you’ll be reimbursed for specific purchases. For example, you may have a restaurant assignment, where you get the cost of your meal reimbursed.
- Cash payment: As the name suggests, you receive a fee for this type of task, which typically doesn’t involve making a purchase. For example, you may need to call a helpline or check a display in the store.
- Cash & Reimbursement: This is a combination of the two, as you’ll get paid for the mystery shopping task and get a product or service for free.
The specific amount of how much you will earn varies between companies and depends on how much time and effort is required for the task. Most secret shopping tasks offer a small fee, but you’ll often have purchases reimbursed. So, even if you won’t make a fortune, you can enjoy free food and other items while making extra money.
According to ZipRecruiter data, the average pay for mystery shoppers is $20 per hour, while Indeed states the average is $18.41 per hour. So, depending on the company, whether you work full time or take on small occasional projects, you could be looking to earn approximately $19 per hour.
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There are a number of companies offering secret shopper assignments, which we’ll get into below. However, one of the first steps to becoming a mystery shopper is to think about the type of tasks you would feel comfortable completing. There are several broad categories of tasks including:
These are typically chain restaurants where the head office wants to check the standards in particular locations. This can be a cheaper restaurant, where you can be reimbursed $30-$40 up to fancier places where you can receive as much as $100 of free food. If you have food intolerances or specific dietary habits, this may not be a good option for you. So, you’ll need to carefully check the instructions to ensure you can meet the requirements before you accept a job.
This is another common type of mystery shopping assignment. You typically need to make a phone call to the dealership service department or schedule a service appointment online. These don’t tend to be the highest-paying secret shopping tasks, but they only take a few minutes and you don’t need to leave home. However, there are occasionally higher-paying dealership jobs that require going in and pretending to shop for a new car.
This is the most well-known area of secret shopping. You can get paid in products and receive a fee, depending on the task. Some retail store assignments simply require that you buy something small as proof that you were in-store to survey a particular department or section.
Once you have an idea of which types of mystery shopping tasks you would be interested in, you can then sign up with one or more appropriate companies. Generally, all you need to do is complete an online form and then wait to be accepted by the platform.
If you’re approved, you can then find secret shopper tasks on the platform and check the specifics of what’s required. Be sure to read through the assignment details carefully, because if you fail to complete one aspect of the task, you won’t get paid. You can then complete the assignment as detailed. Just remember that if you need to buy something as part of your assignment, keep the receipt as you will need this when you complete the questionnaire.
It’s also important to note that if you fail to complete assignments, you may struggle to get other jobs on that platform. If an occasion does arise when you cannot complete a task you accepted, you should contact the platform and ask to cancel or reschedule. Be aware that schedulers will make a note of these occasions, so if you do this more than once or twice, you will no longer have access to the good tasks.
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Legit Secret Shopper Jobs
Unfortunately, there are a lot of mystery shopper scams on the internet, so you need to be sure that you only consider legit companies. So, here’s a list of companies that offer legit secret shopping jobs.
BestMark is one of the oldest and largest providers of mystery shopping jobs. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking for a legit company in the industry. The company has over 600,000 secret shoppers or field representatives, with an average hourly rate of $13. BestMark does not hire mystery shoppers full time, but you’ll work as an independent contractor.
To join BestMark simply visit the website and submit a job application.
This is another mystery shopping company with a long track record. Secret Shopper has been operating for more than 25 years and you can earn up to $25 per job. However, there are some jobs that only provide item reimbursement or a free meal. Although it may not be the highest-paying platform, it can be a great way to gain experience and enjoy some interesting opportunities such as lunch at a new cafe or visiting a casino resort.
To sign up, select your country on the official website and fill in the online application.
Market Force has a large client base, but many of the assignments are food-related. This involves tasks at restaurants, hotels, gas station convenience shops, and grocery stores. Again, to become a Market Force shopper, you’ll need to visit the website and complete an application.
Intellishop has secret shopper tasks for a variety of brands. To get started, you’ll need to visit the Intellishop shopper hub and click “apply to join the team” before you can search jobs. When you’re approved, you can find out about job opportunities by checking the job board or via email notifications.
However, if you want to increase the chances of getting hired for the best job assignments, try to focus on earning the highest ratings. After each job, you’ll receive a score based on whether you followed the task instructions, if you were on time and whether your report was thorough. If you have the highest possible rating, you’re more likely to get assigned the better-paying tasks.
You can also accept a mystery shopper job with a Hero Citation. This is a badge on your record letting coordinators know that you’re reliable.
One of the leading mystery shopping providers, Sinclair offers phone, video, and in-person secret shopping services to its clients. The jobs may include mystery shopping at a client’s location or competitors to provide data. Sinclair Customer Metrics typically focuses on restaurants, retail, grocery stores, and banking.
To apply, complete the online form and fill in a questionnaire that confirms that you have reviewed the expectations and terms for the mystery shopper role. However, you can expect to earn $10 per hour.
Service Evaluation Concepts offers elite standard mystery shopping to some well-known brand names including Kroger, Macy’s, and Cartier. There are two levels of certification for this company, as you need to be tested and certified in the company’s policies and procedures, along with understanding specific client engagements.
Due to the advanced training, certified shoppers enjoy privileged work status and a higher earning potential. If you’re uncertified, you’re classified as a research participant, but you are unable to choose assignments, as a project liaison will need to specifically select you.
You can expect to earn up to $50 per assignment along with free products or food-related to the task. However, you do need to pay for certification, so don’t attempt this until you have established a track record with other jobs, and are confident that you like working with the company. To apply, you’ll need to fill in the form with your basic details including contact information.
Signature Worldwide offers telephone secret shopping, so if you’d prefer to work from home, this is a great platform for you. The official website cites a pay of $10 per hour and you’ll be paid bimonthly. While it’s not a huge amount of money, it’s ideal for extra cash that can be earned in your spare time.
The tasks relate to a variety of industries including hotels and resorts, construction, party rental, medical offices, casinos, restaurants, and government agencies.
To apply, you’ll need to complete a job application and attach your resume.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, there are some companies that purport to offer secret shopping tasks that are actually scammers if you take a closer look. So, you need to be wary of any companies that are not legit. Some of the warning signs of mystery shopping scams to look out for include:
You should be wary of any secret shopper companies that make promises of earning thousands of dollars or even a check upfront. While it may be tempting, these companies usually have catches that include needing to pay money to register.
While it’s common to need to sign up and be accepted for a platform before you can access secret shopper job listings, you should not need to pay a fee.
This is another warning sign for scam companies that insist that you pay to be properly trained for the role. This is different from Service Evaluation Concepts certification, which is not required to access basic jobs. So, you can get comfortable with the platform before you decide to pay for the certification.
Working as a mystery shopper can provide a flexible gig that you can work around your other commitments. You can pick and choose the jobs that you want to work, at a convenient time for you to mystery shop. The great thing is that you can work in your local area and become more familiar with businesses and the levels of service offered.
While you’re not likely to make a fortune, and full-time jobs are few and far between, it’s possible to enjoy a lucrative income stream in your spare time. You’ll need to be on the lookout for scams, but if you use this guide on how to become a secret shopper as a jumping-off point and ensure that you take the time to research any other companies, you can find legit opportunities for shopping with great perks and rewards like extra money.